We’ve all seen research that suggests the best time to tweet, post a photo on Instagram, publish an article or send an email. With all due respect, this is nonsense. The most important things you need in business to make meaningful decisions, or as some may like to say ‘executive’ or ‘strategic’ decisions, are common sense and relevant data. Every business is different and not every piece of research is reliable. Common sense and data combined enable you to understand audience behaviour better.

When you communicate with your audience, they can see how much you know about them. If you don’t know much about them, you will be ignored. Because it is not only about you, it is about your audience too – and no one wants to be ignored, especially marketers and salespeople.

There is no magic formula or any secret other than to be relevant and know your audience before anything else; whether you want to sell event tickets or you think you have the best solution to a problem for your prospect.

Knowing your audience

In order to know your audience, you first need to know who your audience is and what they do. Clearly not everyone is your target audience. Knowing your audience begins by defining your business objectives and brand personality.

Knowing your audience is a make or break factor in business starting from your first handshake at a networking event to an email inquiry you received because someone saw your ad on Google or heard about you somewhere.

Whatever you do, always remember that you are not the only one that says “we are different” and “we put our customers first”. When making your morning coffee, ask yourself, how different are you in terms of your marketing and customer service compared to your competitors? Or are you one of those businesses that buys a list of “potential customers” and expect ROI?

Cut the shortcut

Although email is still one of the best marketing communications methods, in terms of ROI, even better than retargeting ad campaigns but, it has to be targeted and personalised. That doesn’t mean starting your email with “Hi Mark” or “Dear Lucy”, it means knowing the needs and expectations of Mark and Lucy. How do you know Mark and Lucy? Have you ever spoken to them? Have they ever contacted you directly to tell you about their needs? Or has anyone who properly knows Mark and Lucy put you in touch with them to respond to their needs?

It is not that easy, is it? As the old saying goes, it is never wrong to do the right thing, even if others believe in total marketing automation and mass communications aka ‘spray and pray’. Saying ‘business is a numbers game’ is a myth, and you know it.

Are you talking to the right person?

Although the ultimate goal is to sell more products and services, you won’t be able to sell unless you speak to the right person, the decision maker and the buyer. So you may to spend time on researching who actually needs your products and services and why, then be honest whether you can respond to their needs. No one wants to talk to those people who consider themselves so smart as to ‘create a need’ for something that no one really needs.

Responding to needs is easier and makes better business sense than creating needs. As you know B2B decision makers and buyers don’t buy things because they want, they buy because they know they need them. The latest research conducted by the Harvard Business Review suggests 95% B2B CMOs put “better tailoring of content” as a top priority in gaining their attention. It’s context and relevance, something we speak about often in social media.

Build relationships to know your audience

When buyers engage with suppliers, they are 57% of the way through the decision making process. So, how much do you know about what your audience needs and when they need what they need? There is not even a single tool out there to tell you about this. The only way you can confidently say you know what your audience needs is when you have an established relationship with them.

Always make sure who you are speaking to and whether more than one person is involved in decision making process. The bigger an organisation, the more decision makers may be involved who expect to hear about the benefits and value of your solution.

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Invest in Word of Mouth

We marketers love our words and “polished” facts sometimes, especially when we go to events and exhibitions. According to eMarketer 95% of B2B professionals trust their peers and colleagues. So the chances of making reasonable profit by reaching out to those 5% who might trust marketing is rather slim. Although some may argue 5% of a country with 60 million population is huge, they miss three major points:

  1. Competition (and everything that comes with it)
  2. Not all those 60 million are potential customers (considering demographic factors)
  3. Location and business feasibility

You may have years of business experience but, as you know, technology is changing the way we behave and communicate. This is perhaps why so many bars and nightclubs are closing down every year. Whilst the number of online dating apps is on the rise and there are more coffee shops and takeaways on every high street than cash machines.

Word of mouth is no longer just what hear at events or on streets. In this day and age, word of mouth often begins by a tweet, photo or an article online. We used to quote the BBC for news and information but BBC has been quoting social media users since 2003. As a result everyone can be a journalist, what I like to refer as citizen journalist, a game changer and an influencer.

Thus, placing genuine integrity (not the product of misused emotional intelligence) at the centre of business operation is the only way forward for brands seeking credibility and sustainability. Credible brands can earn authority without spending money on buying followers and likes to create glossy reports – stuff that hinder the ROI path.

Analyse and evaluate your activities

Analytics always help to understand how engaged people are and how they express themselves. For example, you can identify the best form of content that people created during an event and was engaged with the most.

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Having established the form of content, you may want to find out more about more about the most used platforms during your event.

Such level of intelligence allows you to get to know your audience’s habits and use the medium they are most likely to use. This in turn leads to more interaction and ultimately building mutually beneficial relationships.

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For example, you may want to create your own benchmark in terms of the best time to tweet and post photos on Instagram based on your own audience behaviour.

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As you can see, it doesn’t really matter what the research says about what time to tweet or post a blog. Simply because every business and industry is different. Being a part of your ‘audience’ keeps you visible and enhances your credibility.

Think about this…

Marketing technology benefits everyone. Don’t worry about getting ‘strategy’ right – focus on creating and adding value. Be meaningful and relevant; that starts with knowing what you want to do and why. Selecting communication channels comes after evaluating your audience behaviour and the channels they use.  

Q1) How can we use social media to learn about our audience?

Q2) How does building social media relationships help us find decision makers? Are social contacts strong word-of-mouth referrals?

Q3) How does social networking influence how decision makers relate to us, our company, our people?

Q4) Is LinkedIn our only option for reaching decision makers?  How can we reach them on ‘social’ channels?

Q5) What analytics are useful in identifying our audience? In assuring that we’re hitting our target?

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